Huge Admission from Canadian Cross-Border Polluter, Teck Resources
By rosehips | Posted September 11, 2012 | Northport, Washington
I have personally been waiting decades for this. In an historic admission on the eve of a court case pitting two members of the Colville Confederated Tribes, the state of Washington and the EPA against a Canadian company with a long history of pollution into the Columbia River, the polluting company has admitted that their toxic discharges have crossed the border into Washington State.
Teck Resources (fka Teck Cominco) is located just north of the Canadian border and is one of the biggest lead/zinc smelters in the world. They have been operating the smelter for over 100 years. A byproduct of the smelting process is black slag, which Teck discharged directly into the river for decades until locals across the border in the Northport, WA area began protesting back in the early 1990’s. This pressure helped prompt the Canadian government to force regulations upon the company. They built a brand new smelter. When the smelter design was discovered to be flawed, they built another one. They stopped dumping slag. We won that victory, but the fight didn’t end there.
For decades Teck maintained that the black slag discharged into the Columbia, that by some estimates totals over 50 million tons, was inert. But then in the 1990’s it was proven that the slag is not inert. The toxins within the vitrified sand are bio-available over time. And time has had it’s way with the slag.
In 1999, members of the Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) came to local activists in the Northport area and asked for help in making Teck accountable for their pollution. Through years of tough legal work, years of study have been conducted by Teck, after an agreement with tribal members, the EPA and the state of Washington was reached. As local citizens directly impacted by the discharges, members of Citizens for a Clean Columbia (CCC) have worked hand in hand with the CCT, the EPA and various state agencies to see this day come. Teck has now admitted some of their toxic discharges that they released wound up in Washington. This sets the stage for them to be held accountable for the damages.
The locals in the Northport area, where I lived for 18 years, have been screaming for an epidemiological study for decades to prove what we already know: that there is a cluster of intestinal bowel diseases (IBD) in the area. We have asked the state to answer the question: Why do so many Northport residents have colitis and Chrohn’s disease? Well, after more than one flawed study, we finally got the study we were looking for. A team out of Massachusetts came out and surveyed residents. They analyzed the data and they confirmed that there is indeed a cluster of IBD’s with rates 15 times greater than in the general public.
So now what? I guess we will see what the courts determine. Attorneys have already been flocking, waiting to represent local citizens who have been impacted by Teck Resources. It is going to be an interesting phase of our fight for justice for the people who live along the upper Columbia River.
Stay tuned for updates.
Read more from the Globe and Mail:
Photos of “Black Sand Beach” by me. (Sorry they got pixelated!) The beach was remediated a few years ago by Teck at a considerable expense. They replaced the black slag that give the beach its name with clean sand. It was a major job but was necessary to protect to local folk who swim and fish there.
Thanks for reading!